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Today’s Storystream

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The Verge
The Justice Department has released its answer to Google’s antitrust trial brief.

Filed in conjunction with a coalition of states, it’s making an argument that should be familiar to trial-watchers: Google is paying billions of dollars a year to stifle competition in the search market, and advertisers and consumers are facing the fallout.

Google is not focused on spending its money, attention, and time on improving general search and search advertising because it does not have to. Recognizing how such evidence would land with the public, regulators, and courts, Google attempted to obscure these facts. ... Despite these efforts the record is clear: consumers have little choice, lose out on better products, and sacrifice their privacy — with advertisers paying higher prices — because there are no meaningful alternatives to Google.

Closing arguments are expected in May.


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Youtube
The Odysseus lunar lander is laying on its side.

During a NASA press conference Friday evening, Intuitive Machines co-founder and CEO Steve Altemus showed the attitude of its lunar lander, the first from the US to reach the Moon’s surface in over 50 years.

As Swapna Krishna explains, they believe it tipped over after catching a foot on the surface while landing, but fortunately, it’s still getting sunlight to power the battery. Plans for the coming days include deploying a CubeSat it’s carrying called EagleCam to take photos from the surface.


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Temu dominates app download charts even as US lawmakers reportedly float import ban.

China hawks in Congress are concerned that shopping giant Temu has not done enough to ensure it’s not working with suppliers using forced labor. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) is among those pushing to list Temu as a violator of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which could effectively ban its imports, The Information reports.

Meanwhile, the Chinese e-commerce app sits among the top free apps on iOS and Android.


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Twitter
Things are about to get real weird in Faerun.

Larian Studios keeps giving the people what they want with each Baldur’s Gate 3 update. The most recent patch added a bunch of new kiss animations, some sweet, some very spicy. But there’s one ask from the BG3 community that Larian’s director of publishing says is coming soon: official mod support.

With mod support, patches to the game are less likely to break mods and it’ll be easier overall to make mods for the game. Prime opportunity for some freaky, frightening, or just plain fun additions to the game.


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Pay for your pies.

Tesla reportedly stiffed a Black-owned bakery during Black History Month, canceling an order for thousands of dollars worth of piesafter asking the owner to double the amount.

Today, Musk vaguely tweeted he’d “make things good with the bakery”. Meanwhile, the community has stepped in to help.


For Netflix’s live-action Avatar to work, Zuko had to find his heart a little faster

Avatar: The Last Airbender actor Dallas Liu opens up about turning to YouTube and co-star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee to figure out who the new Prince Zuko really is.

AT&T tried to get Game of Thrones to Go 90.

Before 3 Body Problem premieres this spring on Netflix, WSJ Magazine dug into David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to discuss this new book-to-TV adaptation and, of course, their last one too.

They reveal AT&T execs asked if GoT could be shot vertically for phones and discussed making “snackable” mini-episodes (like, quick bites, you might say). They also said an idea to end Thrones with three movies instead of 13 episodes split across two seasons was rejected, apparently with a reminder that HBO doesn’t stand for “Away Box Office.”


Three men seated on a bench, the one in the center is smilin directly at the camera as the other two look elsewhere.
D.B. Weiss (left) and David Benioff (center) with former “True Blood” writer Alexander Woo (right).
Image: Chantal Anderson for WSJ. Magazine
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Twitter
Google says News search results aren’t going away — but the deck is often stacked against them.

Did you know Google tested removing its News tab from search results entirely? It’s back now “and we do not have plans to remove it,” says the company.

But many searches downplay News in what I’d argue is an irresponsible way. When I search for “Wyze Camera,” stories about major security lapses are buried under an avalanche of product results. I saw the same thing after we wrote about SanDisk’s data-losing portable SSDs.


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A live-action Naruto movie is on the way.

The art of turning iconic animated TV shows into legitimately good live action series and films is something Hollywood still hasn’t quite figured out. But that’s not stopping Legendary from making a live-action Naruto movie with Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton.


Avatar: The Last Airbender is everything that’s disappointing about Netflix’s live-action cartoon shows

Netflix’s live-action Avatar has its heart in the right place, but its pacing and uneven performances leave a lot to be desired.

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Byju’s may no longer be Byju’s after shareholders vote out Byju.

Byju Raveendran is CEO of the company once described as India’s most valuable startup, but... maybe not anymore?

Byju’s is an app-based educational company that’s snapped up US firms like Osmo (you might have seen its iPad-camera-attachment STEM games) and Epic during its buying sprees.


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Did today’s update improve your Samsung Galaxy S24’s camera?

Inquiring minds would like to know. Officially, there’s a new “vividness” option, and “image quality and sharpness optimization code has been applied” as well.

Unofficially, SamMobile says it “improves text clarity while using high zoom ranges,” improves “the exposure of dark parts of a scene while capturing images indoors,” helps with backlit photos, improves colors and exposure in various photo modes, and more.


Driverless car chaos in SF is on the decline.

For a while, it seemed like each week brought news of another driverless car making a mess of things in San Francisco. But the number of incidents is actually going down, according to data provided to the San Francisco Chronicle by the city’s fire department. Most of which can be chalked up to GM’s Cruise grounding its fleet following a grisly pedestrian-dragging incident. And now Waymo’s expansion plans are on hold too. We’ll see if these numbers hold up if the companies are given permission to deploy more robots.


Graph of incidents of driverless cars obstructing emergency vehicles
Incidents in which driverless cars obstructed emergency vehicles is going down.
Image: San Francisco Chronicle

The birth of a salesman

The Flip shopping app is a TikTok knockoff, filled with wannabe influencers making pennies per video view — myself included.

Hue is rolling out a fix for one of its biggest problems.

Hueblog.com spotted an entry on Hue’s website saying support for multiple bridges on one account is coming this year, allowing control of more than 50 devices on one account.

Today, to use more than 50 lights and accessories, you have to create a separate Hue account for a second bridge and switch between them in the app to control your lights. This is fiddly and annoying, so this fix is one Hue users have been waiting for.


Philips Hue is promising to bring support for multiple bridges to its platform later this year.
Philips Hue is promising to bring support for multiple bridges to its platform later this year.
Image: Philips Hue
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Youtube
Watch Jon Stewart and a Daily Show audience member tangle over TikTok and the decline of “TV.”

Jon Stewart’s presence on The Daily Show already feels very familiar (and very good), but the way people consume their video entertainment has shifted dramatically since he left the anchor’s chair in 2015.

Prior to his episode this past Monday, Stewart had a very interesting conversation with an audience member about how different “TV” has become.

Worth mentioning: Stewart’s return has already boosted TDS ratings in a real way. Turns out people can still be convinced to tune in.


The new Asus ROG Zephyrus G16 laptop is now available in the US.

As we saw at CES last month, Asus’ G16 and G14 latops are sleeker and thinner for 2024, featuring a new aluminum build, OLED screens, larger trackpads, and Intel Core Ultra 9 Meteor Lake chips to go with Nvidia 40-series GPUs.

The G16 price goes from $1,999.99 to $3,299.99 and it’s available directly from Asus or Best Buy. We haven’t reviewed this one yet, but hopefully, that new look hasn’t ruined this iteration of one of our most recommended gaming laptops.

Note: If you buy something from these links, we might get affiliate revenue.


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“Why are we expected to do the coding Olympics for every company that wants to interview you?”

Wired writes about how tech job interviews have gotten even more demanding after the series of layoffs that rocked the industry these past few years:

Emails reviewed by Wired showed that in one interview for an engineering role at Netflix, a technical recruiter requested that a job candidate submit a three-page project evaluation within 48 hours—all before the first round of interviews.

A Netflix spokesperson said the process is different for each role and otherwise declined to comment.

A similar email at Snap outlined a six-part interview process for a potential engineering candidate, with each part lasting an hour. A company spokesperson says its interview process hasn’t changed as a result of labor market changes.


X is starting to roll out search filters.

Premium users on iOS will see the feature first, according to X designer Andrea Conway. The feature will let you sort through posts based on the date, language, location, and more.


Image: Andrea Conway via X
Microsoft says its automated AI red teaming tool finds malicious content “in a matter of hours.”

PyRIT, or Python Risk Identification Toolkit, can point human evaluators to “hot spot” categories in AI that might generate harmful prompt results.

Microsoft used PyRIT while redteaming (the process of intentionally trying to get AI systems to go against safety protocols) its Copilot services to write thousands of malicious prompts and score the response based on potential harm in categories that security teams can now focus on.


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Twitter
The App Store verification prompt in iOS 17.4 is just a bug.

Earlier today, iSoftware Updates (via MacRumors), spotted a new prompt in the iOS 17.4 beta 4 that asks EU users to “verify the information before installing” an app on the App Store. However, Apple spokesperson Peter Ajemian tells The Verge the feature is just a bug, and it will be disabled before iOS 17.4 rolls out.

Update February 23rd, 3:16PMET: Noted that this notification is a bug.


King of the Hammers is a little bit Mad Max, a little bit Blade Runner.

Emme Hall’s story this week captured the sweaty, gravel-strewn insanity of the annual off-road event, but it really needs to be seen to be believed. Here are some of the amazing images from this year’s King of the Hammers that were provided by a variety of photographers who clearly don’t mind a little bit of dirt on their lenses.


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Photo by Royce Rumsey/Optima Batteries
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Youtube
A New Orleans magician says he made the AI Biden robocall telling people not to vote.

Paul Carpenter told NBC News that he was paid $150 to produce a fake AI-generated voice message from Joe Biden — and that the political operative Steve Kramer hired him to do it. Kramer has worked with Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips’ campaign to gather signatures to get on the ballot. NBC didn’t find evidence that the Phillips campaign was involved in the robocalls.

The parties reportedly involved apparently were not very discreet. Kramer texted the magician, “Have AI voice project” in September. And then there’s this:

On Jan. 22, when NBC News first broke the news of the fake Biden robocall, Steve Kramer texted Carpenter a link to the story along with the message, “Shhhhhhh,” to which Carpenter replied, “Gtfooh,” an acronym used to express astonishment. 


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Twitter
AT&T says its massive wireless outage was probably not due to a cyberattack.

After AT&T wireless service went out for many customers and even first responders across the US Thursday morning, one of the concerns was that the problem, and AT&T’s long delay before making a public statement about it, indicated a possible security breach.

However, according to this tweet, the company thinks it has identified the cause, described as “ the application & execution of an incorrect process used as we were expanding our network.”


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“Can you Superset that to me?” just doesn’t have quite the same ring.

One of my most closely held theories is that no product can survive a terrible name. You can maybe turn a meh name into a great one — Google, Yelp, Apple — but if you name your company Quibi or Go90, it’s over before it starts. And according to some early Slack employees, the team was this close to picking a real stinker:

We tried a whole range of technical sounding ones like Circuit and Superset. Superset in particular was well-liked: “the superset of all your team communication!” But it was already taken. Loop.in was considered and discarded. Kitchen, or the Flickr-styled “Kitchn” was thrown around.


Honda Prologue first drive: a pretty good start

The new long-range EV from Honda comes with some Chevy Blazer DNA, but don’t hold that against it.

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Volvo thins out its stake in Polestar.

The Swedish automaker said it would distribute 62.7 percent of its stake in Polestar to its shareholders, following through on its promise to dial back its funding for the performance EV brand. When all is said and done, Volvo will retain an 18 percent stake in Polestar, and Geely (Volvo and Polestar’s parent company) will be in the driver seat.

“At the same time as this transaction allows us to welcome new shareholders, our relationship with Volvo Cars remains,” Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath said. “Our customers will continue to benefit from our existing collaboration, including across commercial and after sales – providing piece of mind and consistency.”


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The Harry Potter TV series is a couple more years away.

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said during an earnings call that the studio is “aiming” to release its upcoming Harry Potter TV show on Max in 2026. The company first announced the show last year, saying it will be a “decade-long series produced with the same epic craft, love and care this global franchise is known for.”


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Staring carefully into surveillance camera: “Would you... like... fries with that?”

AI is theoretically a labor-saving tool, but here’s yet another example of a perhaps more immediate use: keeping tabs on workers, in this case so they’ll upsell more customers at fast-food joints. It’s even got a cute name:

Riley, installed at about 100 stores across the country including KFC and Taco Bell franchisees, ingests data including workers’ conversations with customers, and uses AI to detect whether and how often employees have tried to “upsell” (offered add ons or extra toppings), “upsize” (offered a larger size) or tried to sign a customer up for a loyalty program. Employees who make the most suggestions and whose suggestions get converted into sales receive cash bonuses based on a scorecard generated by Hoptix’s AI system.


Amazon Prime Video has many skills,

because Xena: Warrior Princess is now included if you have Prime. The show, like many syndicated television shows from the pre-streaming age, has had an inconsistent appearance on streaming service. Generally if you’ve wanted to binge the show properly you’ve either needed to plan your Tubi viewing meticulously or had to spend a lot of money on digital copies.

But some eagle-eyed fans noticed it was streaming this week. Now anyone with a Prime subscription can watch the still deeply entertaining (if extremely goofy) show.